DEC to lead multi-agency effort to investigate bottle bill fraud

New York. Such fraud can cost the state millions each year.

| 07 Nov 2023 | 01:34

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced a statewide multi-agency effort to help prevent returnable container schemes that allegedly defraud the state of millions of dollars each year. This new effort will help uncover practices that prevent bottles and cans without deposits from being redeemed, thus reducing funds that support environmental and other state initiatives.

This new effort will bring together the expertise of multiple state agencies, including law enforcement and technical expertise from the State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF), Department of Agriculture and Markets, State Liquor Authority and others to work collaboratively on collecting and interpreting data, auditing records, inspecting and certifying redemption and counting equipment, investigating complaints, and preventing or prosecuting fraudulent activities.

New York’s Returnable Container Act, known as the Bottle Bill, aims to improve litter control, provide relief to overburdened municipal recycling systems, and increase beverage container recycling in New York. Recyclables collected through this program are readily returned for manufacturing of containers and other commodities. The law requires a deposit of at least five cents on containers for carbonated soft drinks, beer and other malt beverages, mineral water, soda water, wine products, and water that doesn’t contain sugar. A deposit is required on glass, metal, and plastic containers that hold less than one gallon or 3.78 liters.

The Bottle Bill captures an average of five billion beverage containers each year, with 250,000 tons of plastic, glass, and aluminum recycled. Since the law went into effect, redemption rates averaged 65%, well above the recycling rate for most other packaging and products, and beverage container litter was reduced by 70%, per the DEC’s announcement.

Since the Bottle Bill was amended in 2009, four cents of each unredeemed nickel are remitted to DTF, generating approximately $117 million in revenue for New York State in 2022 alone. Most of the funds collected go to the state’s General Fund. Of these monies, about $23 million is dedicated each year to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. Bottle Bill sales data is often held confidential, but some estimates of the impact of fraud and underreporting of deposits reach tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, per the DEC.

More about New York’s Bottle Bill can be found at